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In Switzerland there are four national languages: German, Italian, French and Romansh. What even many Swiss don't know is that there is another language in French-speaking Switzerland: Franco-Provençal or Patois.

Admittedly, Franco-Provençal is not yet completely extinct. It is much more like a language zombie: It is still spoken in individual villages such as Evolene and there are numerous initiatives to preserve the language: for example, there are now plays and exhibitions in Patois and Radio Fribourg broadcasts a Franco-Provençal programme for half an hour every Sunday. Nevertheless, the language is doomed and will probably be completely replaced by French in the future.

Different Patois dialects are spoken in this area.

Even 200 years ago, the patois was better off: it was the main language between Grenoble and Fribourg, between the Neuchâtel Jura and the Aosta Valley in Italy. Patois, by the way, is not a French dialect but has developed from Late Latin into an independent language, which is about as similar to French as it is to Romansh.

The decline of Franco-Provençal began with the introduction of compulsory education. The language of instruction was French, the language of the educated. Anyone who spoke Patois was defamed and labelled a hillbilly. At school, neither teachers nor pupils were allowed to speak Patois. This ban was only lifted in the 20th century; much too late to reclaim its ancestral place.

Nevertheless, the negative connotation of patois has since been dispelled and it is now considered a cultural heritage in Switzerland. For example, the radio has made hundreds of sound recordings of the various dialects of the patois for fear of losing this linguistic treasure. Now I would like to show you some examples so that you can get a better idea of the tonality of the patois. The interviewers / narrators speak French; pay attention to the contrast:

In the article series "Extinct" I write about the phenomenon of the extinction of animals and languages.